Daniel Carlson on Sunday became the fifth Vikings kicker to try at least three field goals in a game and not make one, according to Pro Football Reference. The circumstances, primarily missing the winner from 35 yards as time expired in overtime, led to the fifth-round draft pick’s release Monday.
There’s no doubt that the Vikings could have just as easily blamed their punt unit for allowing the Packers to block a punt for a touchdown, or Laquon Treadwell for letting an easy catch go through his hands for an interception.
But the blame fell on Carlson, as it often does when kickers fail in pressure situations. It was a shocking development for a player that the Vikings believed in so much that five months ago they made him the fourth kicker drafted in team history — the first of those four came in the team’s expansion season of 1961, when Mike Mercer was selected in the 15th round.
The most recent Vikings kicker to go 0-for-3 in a game before Carlson was Blair Walsh, in a 16-14 loss at Detroit on Dec. 14, 2014. The stakes weren’t quite as high as the Vikings were not going to the playoffs following a 2-5 start to the season. But in that game, Walsh had a 26-yarder blocked and a 53-yarder go wide right, and his final miss was a 68-yarder that was short as time expired.
That was Walsh’s third season, two years after he was named an All-Pro as a rookie. Of course, he struggled with the Vikings after that, but even after his infamous 27-yard miss in the loss to Seattle in the NFC playoffs at TCF Bank Stadium, he was still brought back for the 2016 season before he was released after nine games and replaced by Kai Forbath.
Even Stenerud missed
Perhaps the most devastating case of a kicker going 0-for-3 on field-goal tries in Vikings history came on Dec. 15, 1985, and the kicker involved was one of football’s all-time greats.
Jan Stenerud had two attempts blocked, missed another, and then missed the tying extra point in the fourth quarter as the Vikings fell 14-13 to the Falcons on Dec. 15, 1985, in Atlanta.
That loss eliminated the team from the playoffs, and days later the 43-year-old Stenerud said he would retire. In 1991, the Norwegian became the first pure placekicker to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That game was also notable because the Vikings blocked two of Atlanta’s attempts. Those were kicked by Mick Luckhurst.
And while many teammates came to his defense, noting that the field conditions at Fulton County Stadium were horrible, Stenerud said: “In the NFL, you’re a professional. It doesn’t matter if it’s ice, mud, sand. You’ve still got to get it done.”
His holder, punter Greg Coleman, said: “He’s only one man. No one person should shoulder the blame.”
Stenerud nearly announced his retirement after the game, but was persuaded to return for the season finale. In that game, he made all five extra points in a 37-35 loss to the Eagles at the Metrodome, which also wound up as Bud Grant’s last game as Vikings coach.
As for the other 0-for-3 games, Mercer missed three kicks in a 21-7 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 24, 1961, the second game in Vikings history. Two years later, it was Fred Cox missing three attempts in a 28-7 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 10, 1963.
Bailey the answer?
Cox is easily the longest-tenured kicker in Vikings history, as 1963 was the first of his 15 consecutive seasons in Minnesota. Since then, they often have trouble finding kickers who stick.
Their second-longest-tenured kickers are Fuad Reveiz (1990-95) and Ryan Longwell (2006-11), each lasting six seasons.
Now the Vikings will tie themselves to Dan Bailey, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.
Last season, Bailey had to deal with injuries and hit only 75 percent of his field goals, the lowest percentage of his career.
In 2015, he signed a seven-year, $22.5 million extension, and the Cowboys wanted to get out from under that contract, so they cut him.
Still, he has made 20 or more field goals six times, and his lowest percentage in those years is 84.4 percent, which would rank 10th all-time for a Vikings season with at least 20 tries. His career-best 93.8 percent in 2015 would rank third in Vikings history.
Wolves are hurting
You have to feel a little sorry for Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who has waited a long time and done a fantastic job in building the franchise back up to respectability as they reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years last season.
In a short conversation Wednesday, Taylor did not sound very happy about the news that Jimmy Butler wanted to be traded, even as Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said he had no comment on the reports.
Here’s the thing, if the Wolves can’t make a good deal for Butler then the decision to trade for him last year does not look great.
Not only would they lose Butler but they also lost Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and last year’s No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen.
It doesn’t help that the draft choice the Wolves got back in the deal, Justin Patton, is not going to contribute for some time and has broken both of his feet in one year.
Maybe the Wolves won’t be worse off by trading Butler to either the Nets, who have $65 million in practical salary cap space next season according to spotrac.com, the Knicks who have $39 million, or the Clippers who have $47 million.
Those teams would have the space for Butler’s five-year, $190 million maximum salary that he is looking for and maybe the Wolves could get one or two players with potential back in the deal.
The word is that head coach Tom Thibodeau has no interest in trading Butler but you have to wonder how these reports would affect the locker room all season.
• Bailey has faced the Vikings twice in his career. In 2013 he went 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points in a 27-23 Cowboys victory in Arlington. In 2016 he made his only field-goal attempt and went 2-for-2 on extra points in a 17-15 Cowboys victory at U.S. Bank Stadium.
• Baseball America named Alex Kirilloff the best minor league hitter for the Twins this season, Brusdar Graterol the team’s best pitcher and Jhoan Duran as the team’s sleeper prospect. Kirilloff hit .348 between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Fort Myers, combining for 20 homers, 101 RBI and 75 runs. Graterol split time between the same two teams and finished with 107 strikeouts over 102 innings with an 8-4 record and 2.74 ERA. Duran came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the trade for Eduardo Escobar and ended the season pitching for Cedar Rapids, where he posted a 2.00 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 36 innings.